Living With Yourself, the Paul Rudd Netflix show, exists on a continuum between Russian Doll and Maniac. Living With Yourself is high concept and has some strong quirks, but it’s not as openly weird as Maniac. And it’s a show that uses its high concept to examine an existential crisis, though it is not as layered or nuanced as Russian Doll. If Russian Doll seems like too much and Maniac seems too weird, then Living With Yourself is your show, because while it is unique, it doesn’t ask as much as either of those shows. It’s a lot like Paul Rudd himself—enjoyable, kind of funny, and then, every once in a while, strange. It’s not quite a comfort watch, but it’s close.
This show is also an easy sell because it’s short. At only eight episodes averaging twenty-six minutes each, Living With Yourself goes down quick and easy, and is designed to be extremely bingeable. The episodes layer and overlap, moving through time and showing different perspectives on events, which encourages watching the whole thing in one go. And that is easy to do, I got through four episodes before realizing I was already halfway done. In this era of Too Much TV, series that are relatively short and easy to consume jump out—“it’s only five episodes” was a huge selling point for Chernobyl, and the entire second season of Fleabag is shorter than Avengers: Endgame. Living With Yourself fits into that “one and done” binge model, but don’t mistake the show for pure fluff. There is some heft to it.
Rudd stars as Miles, a man sunk in a mid-life crisis and plagued by suburban ennui. A co-worker recommends a special spa treatment, and overnight, Miles feels like a new man. And, well, Miles IS a new man. Rudd also stars as “Miles”, a clone designed to be a better, happier version of Miles. Living With Yourself relies heavily on Rudd’s Everyman persona, and here he gets to play it two ways. Miles is the kind of schlub we’re used to Rudd playing in comedies, but this time Miles’s depression is treated seriously and not as a comic premise for middle-aged hijinks. We’ve forgotten over the last twenty years that Rudd is a really good dramatic actor, and with Miles he gets to play more serious and darker than we’ve seen in a while. And then as “Miles” his Everyman charm turns up to a level we’re used to seeing in the Marvel movies, at least until the emotional toll of being a clone starts to wear on “Miles”, who has memories of a life but no real emotional experience.
Caught between the two Mileses is Kate (Aisling Bea), Miles’s wife. Halfway through the episodes, the show winds back and reframes the events to that point through Kate’s perspective, which makes her a more complete character than just “wife” and deepens the emotional core of the story. Part of Miles’s crisis is the stagnation of his marriage, and it’s nice to also understand the forces pulling Kate out of their relationship, and to give her some agency in the conflict between the Mileses. Living With Yourself is about Miles, but it is stronger for acknowledging Kate’s disappointments and setbacks, too.
But don’t worry, it’s not a dour slog. There are some really funny moments, though the humor is dark. (And the show gets really dark toward the end, warning for suicidal ideation.) What keeps Living With Yourself from being bleak is the kookiness of the clone premise, and Rudd’s charm. Miles is a darker, meaner character than we’ve seen from him in a long time, and “Miles” has some rough patches, too, but Rudd’s natural charisma keeps a story partly about depression from becoming depressing. Even when Miles is being mean, you want him to get it together and fix his sh-t, such is the power of Rudd.
Living With Yourself is entirely written by series creator Timothy Greenberg, and it is entirely directed by the duo of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Battle of the Sexes, Little Miss Sunshine). That consistency behind the camera really helps—this is a tight show. It plays as quick as it does not just because the runtime is literally short, but because the eight episodes are SO well paced. The balance between the Mileses is nearly even, and having that split narrative gives each thread time to breathe (and then Kate’s episode pops up just when you’re getting sick of the Mileses). I don’t know how to describe this show except “consumable”. It’s not always a comfortable watch, and it makes some unanswerable observations about identity—what if you’re the only one who remembers “you”? Does identity require external validation?—but it is just so easy to get through. At a time when catching up on shows can feel like homework, Living With Yourself is a slightly weird and wholly welcome recess.